Karin Torrice - Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage


Buying a new home can be an exciting but anxiety-inducing experience. With so many things to consider, it can be difficult to keep track of the things that matter most to you.

This process is complicated further when you discover a second or third home that you like as much as the first and you’re trying to decide which one to make an offer on.

In today’s post, we’re going to talk about how you can effectively compare houses to ensure that you’re making the most sensible, long-term decision for you and your family.

It’s all about the spreadsheet

Today, our method isn’t going to rely on any fancy new apps or paid tools. Everything you need to accomplish your spreadsheet is a tool like Google Sheets (it’s like a free version of Excel) or a simple pencil and notebook.

The columns of your spreadsheet will be made up of the factors that will influence your decision. This will include the obvious details like the cost and square footage of the home, but also finer details like its proximity to key places in your life.

The rows of your spreadsheet will be the properties you’re comparing. Now, it may be tempting to start listing every house on your radar in the columns of your spreadsheet. However, I think it’s more time-effective to only include the homes that you’re likely to make an offer on. This means doing some hard thinking and having a conversation with your family about your realistic goals for buying a home.

What is most important to you in a home and neighborhood?

Let’s turn our attention back to the top row of your spreadsheet. We want to fill that section with around 10 factors that are most important to you in a home and the location the home will be in.

In this section, you can include the estimated cost of the home and the estimated monthly expenses for owning that home (utilities, taxes, etc.).

Here’s the secret weapon of our spreadsheet, however. Rather than listing the actual cost of the home in this row, we’re going to give it a rank of 1 to 5. A score of 1 means the house is a lot more expensive than you want. A score of 5 means the house is the ideal cost. A 3 would be somewhere in the middle.

We’re going to use this 1 to 5 ranking system for all other factors on our spreadsheet as well.

Next to these costs, you’ll want to add other important factors to your home buying decision. Does it have the number of rooms you’re looking for? If a backyard is important to you, does it provide for that need?

In terms of upgrades, how much work will you have to do on the home to make it something you’re satisfied with? For DIY-minded people with time to spare, home improvement might be a welcome concept. For others, it simply would take too much time to accomplish everything you want. So, when you fill out the “Upgrades” column of your spreadsheet, make sure you determine a system for ranking the homes that suits your needs.

House location shouldn’t be overlooked

It’s a sad truth, but in today’s busy world, the average homeowner spends most of their time away from home, whether they’re at work, commuting, or bring their kids to and from after school activities.

You’ll want at least one column on your spreadsheet to be devoted to location. When ranking the location of a home, consider things like commuting time, distance to schools, hospitals, parks, and grocery stores. All of these things will have a larger impact on your day-to-day life than small details of the house itself.

Ranking the homes

Now that you have the first row and column of your spreadsheet built, it’s time to fill in the details and tally up the totals. These numbers will help inform your decision as to which house is really right for you.


Buying your first home is probably one of the biggest purchases you’ll make in your life. But, it does come with its advantages. Among them are tax breaks and deductions that you can take advantage of to save money if you play your cards right.

In today’s post, I’m going to cover some of the tax breaks and deductions that first-time homeowners should seek out this tax season to help them lower their tax bill.

Mortgage points

While earning points is a good thing on the basketball court, it can be a financial drain on a mortgage. Mortgage points are what buyers pay to the lender to secure their loan. They’re usually given as percentage points of the total loan amount.

If you pay these points with your closing costs, then they are deductible. Taxpayers who itemize deductions on their IRS Form 1040 can typically deduct all of the points they paid in a year, with the exception of some high-income taxpayers whose itemized deductions are limited.

PMI costs

If you’re one of the many people who made a down payment of less than 20% on your home, odds are that you’re going to be stuck with PMI, or private mortgage insurance, until you pay off at least 20% of the loan balance.

The good news is that homebuyers who purchased their home in the year 2007 and after can deduct their PMI premiums. However, the state on premium insurance deductibles is something that frequently comes up in Congress, so homeowners should ensure that these deductions are still valid when filing their taxes.

Mortgage interest

Mortgage interest accounts for the biggest deduction for the average homeowner. When you receive your Form 1098 from your lender, you can deduct the total amount of interest you’ve paid during the year.

Property taxes

Another deductible that shouldn’t be overlooked by first-time buyers is local property taxes. Save the records for any property taxes you pay so that you can deduct them during tax season.

Home energy tax credits

Some states are offering generous tax credits for homeowners who make home improvements that save energy. There are a number of improvements you might qualify for, including things like insulation and roofs, as well as photovoltaic (PV) solar panels.

IRA Withdrawals

Many first-time buyers withdraw from an IRA account to be able to make a larger down payment on their home or to pay for closing costs. In most other cases, withdrawing from an IRA will count as taxable income. However, if your IRA withdrawal is used toward a down payment or closing costs, the tax penalty is waived.


Keep these tax breaks and deductions in mind this tax season to help you save money and get a larger refund.


Entering the housing market for the first time can be daunting, particularly for those who want to quickly and seamlessly buy a top-notch residence at an affordable price.

Lucky for you, we're here to help you streamline the process of navigating the homebuying process.

Now, let's take a look at three vital tips to help a first-time homebuyer acquire a residence that matches or exceeds his or her expectations.

1. Analyze the Housing Market

The housing market constantly changes, and as a result, differentiating between a buyer's market and a seller's market can be tough. Fortunately, a homebuyer who analyzes the real estate sector closely should have no trouble discovering a variety of outstanding houses at budget-friendly prices.

To assess the housing market, you'll first want to look at the prices of residences that are currently available. This will enable you to better understand the prices of homes in cities and towns where you'd like to live.

Next, you should analyze the prices of recently sold houses in your region. With this housing market data in hand, you can find out whether you're preparing to buy a home in a buyer's market or a seller's one.

2. Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage

A first-time homebuyer may want to get pre-approved for a mortgage. That way, you can prepare a homebuying budget and narrow your home search accordingly.

To obtain a mortgage, you'll want to meet with several banks and credit unions. This will allow you to learn about all of the mortgage options at your disposal and make an informed mortgage decision.

Furthermore, don't forget to share your mortgage concerns and questions with potential lenders. This will enable you to choose a mortgage that won't force you to overspend to acquire your ideal house.

3. Collaborate with a Real Estate Agent

Let's face it – the homebuying journey can be long and arduous, particularly for a homebuyer who is exploring residences for the first time. But with a real estate agent at your side, you can remove the guesswork of going from homebuyer to homeowner.

A real estate agent is an expert of his or her craft, and as such, will do everything possible to help you achieve your homebuying goals.

Typically, a real estate agent will meet with you and learn about your homebuying expectations. This housing market professional also will set up home showings, keep you up to date about new residences that fall within your price range and negotiate with home sellers on your behalf.

Perhaps best of all, a real estate agent will help you alleviate stress throughout the homebuying cycle. A real estate agent understands the challenges of buying a house and will do whatever it takes to help you avoid or overcome potential homebuying hurdles.

Don't miss out on an opportunity to purchase your dream residence – use the aforementioned tips for first-time homebuyers, and you can boost your chances of acquiring a terrific house without breaking your budget.


If you’re getting ready to buy a home, you know it will be one of the most significant purchases of your entire life. However, are you fully prepared for all of the expenses that buying a home will bring? You don’t want to buy a house to find out that you can’t afford it after all.


Many expenses go into buying a home that you can plan for ahead of time. Other costs aren’t as exact that you will need to add in your budget. Read on to learn more about many of the expenses that throw first-time home buyers for a loop. 


Closing Costs


Closing costs encompass a whole bunch of expenses that you’ll incur buying a home. These include:


  • Taxes
  • Application fees
  • Attorney fees
  • Title insurance
  • Reimbursements
  • Recording fees

No matter what the closing costs include, you should plan for these expenses to be about 2-5 percent of the price of your home. Costs can vary widely, but it’s good to have a bit of extra cash on hand.


Maintaining Your Home


While most homebuyers are prepared for the initial costs of buying a home, they don't know how much it costs to maintain a home. Each year, things will come up on your property that needs to be addressed continually. These tasks include:


Cleaning

Yard care

Gutters

Pressure washing


These routine tasks are independent of other costs like replacing a stove or fixing a furnace. Homeowners need to be prepared for these expenses as well.


Taxes


Taxes can increase or decrease for any given year. You can lookup taxes in the area where you’re planning to buy a home in order to prepare yourself. You should make sure that your property taxes are comparable with that of other homes in your area.

Utilities


Utilities are what your home runs on. Depending on the climate you live in the number of utilities you pay can vary. Take into account these things:


  • Heat
  • Air conditioning
  • Water
  • Electricity
  • Phone
  • Cable
  • Internet

Most neighborhoods have one or two choices for services, so you can ask people in the neighborhood what providers they [refer and how much their bills are each month.         



Insurance


You’re required to have homeowner’s insurance when you get a mortgage. Even if you don’t take out a mortgage and pay cash for a home, it’s a wise decision to protect your investment. Estimate how much a yearly policy will cost you ahead of time. 


This insurance will protect your property from things like theft and fire. You can shop around for the best rates based on policies that suit your needs. It’s easy to price out policies online. See where you can save including discounts for security systems or multiple policy discounts. 


If you live in an area where floods or earthquakes are prevalent, you should be aware. You’ll find you need additional policies to cover damage in the event of these disasters. The most important thing about your homeowner’s insurance policy is that you check the details for all of the fine print.       



Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay


When it comes to selecting a home, every situation is a little different. Do you purchase a house because of its size or is the location more important? Both factors play a crucial role in determining your choice, but the unique details in your life can help you decide which is more important. 

When realtors talk about a home, they often stress the importance of location. However, if you are newlyweds starting a family and you want to buy a home on a tight budget, you might favor the size of the house over the location. On the other hand, if your purchase is to build your portfolio or to be your forever home, location might matter more than size. When considering size versus location, let the steps below guide you.

Sacrificing Location for Size

While location is important, you may need more space for a home office, a workshop, or a large play area. If that is the case, consider size over location. If home size is your focus, the location doesn’t need to be trendy. Choose size over location for these reasons:

  • You Have Children: If you have children, it’s preferable to search for a bigger home. Looking for a larger house in many cities might mean you move to areas where you can get better value for your money. While these areas might not be your dream neighborhood, or ideal for your work commute, they may be a great place to begin a family. 

  • You Have A Large Household: If you have a large family or have multiple adults in the same household, you may be looking for additional space for everyone. A bigger house means you could add play space for your kids, a lawn for your pet, office space, more bathrooms, and outdoor space. 

  • You Need More Space for Guests: If you often have people coming to stay with you; your in-laws, friends, or family members — then having more space or guest room will improve your quality of life. Finding a larger home that meets your housing needs is important, and if having room for guests fills you with joy, then size is important.

Choosing Location over Size

  • You Plan to Rent Out Your House: If you are buying your home intending to rent it out either on a long-term lease or as a holiday rental, your choice of location plays a vital role. Proximity to points of interest and public transportation determine your rental’s demand and supply, and it will have a significant effect on your profit. 

  • You Have Kids That Are Still in School: If you have school-age children, you would want to consider the type of schools available in the area. If there is a specific standard of education you want for your children, ensure you inform your realtor about this before the house hunt process begins. 

  • You Plan to Sell Your House in the Near Future: If you intend selling your home sooner rather than later, you need to be strategic when picking your neighborhood. Location is the crucial factor that affects your resale value — if you are buying a house intending to sell in an abbreviated time, it’s essential you pick an area that will increase your home’s value in the short run. 

Both the location of your home and its size are vital things to look for when house hunting, but your decision on which is more important should be a factor of what you need now. Talk to your realtor about your motivation for buying a home and get their professional advice on what fits your needs the most.




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